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Testing for SARS-like virus should be limited to seriously ill: WHO

LONDON--Doctors should only test people for a new virus if they are very ill in hospital with a respiratory infection, have been in Qatar or Saudi Arabia and test negative for common forms of pneumonia and infections, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

The newly discovered virus from the same family as SARS has so far been confirmed in only two cases worldwide, one in a 60-year-old Saudi man who died from his infections, and another in a man from Qatar who is critically ill in a London hospital.

In updated guidance issued six days after it put out a global alert about the new virus, the WHO said suspected cases should be strictly defined to limit the need to test people with milder symptoms.

But it added anyone who has been in direct contact with a confirmed case and who has any fever or respiratory symptoms should also be tested.

The WHO said in a statement its new case definition was designed “to ensure an appropriate and effective identification and investigation of patients who may be infected with the virus, without overburdening health care systems with unnecessary testing.”

The United Nations health agency said on Sunday Sept. 23 a new virus had infected a 49-year-old Qatari who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, where another man with an almost identical virus had died.

The virus is from a family called coronaviruses, which also includes viruses that cause the common cold and SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed around a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Intensive Care

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